Virtually all of us develop a mild degree of swelling in the feet over the course of a day. That’s why foot care experts recommend waiting until the afternoon to shop for shoes: if you do so in the morning, you may find your new footwear is uncomfortably tight-fitting later in the day.
While more pronounced puffiness (known medically as edema) in the feet, ankles and legs can sometimes be similarly benign, they can also sometimes signal serious, and even potentially life-threatening problems.
For instance, swelling on one side, that evolves rapidly over a day or two — particularly if accompanied by redness, heat, or pain in the leg — hints at the presence of a blood clot in the leg, Called deep vein thrombosis or DVT, this condition strikes approximately 200,000 Canadians per year, affecting one in five of us in the course of a lifetime.
If this happens to you, seek medical attention as soon as possible. These clots can break loose and end up blocking blood vessels in sites such as the lungs (pulmonary embolism or PE), the consequences of which can be deadly. Prompt treatment with blood-thinning medication sharply reduces the risk of PE and other possible complications.
For more information about some of the causes of swelling in the feet, ankles and legs, and when to suspect it may signal something worrisome, check out this Good Times’ health feature that was originally published in October 2018: Swollen Legs.
My heartfelt thanks to the interviewees who so generously shared their time and expertise:
- Dr. Lee Green, a professor of family medicine within the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.
- Dr. Henry Yu-Hin Siu, an assistant professor and director of the Enhanced Care for the Elderly Program in the department of family medicine (part of the Faculty of Health Sciences) at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont.
- Dr. Pamela Houghton, PhD, a professor in the department of physical therapy and chair of the Advanced Health Care Practice (AHCP) program at Western University in London, Ont.